by Joseph Puder
Disparate reflections on the recently concluded ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, which followed eight days of fighting, were revealed in a November 23, 2012 New York Times report: “Palestinians erupted in triumphant celebrations here on Thursday, vowing new unity among rival factions and a renewed commitment to the tactic of resistance, while Israel’s leaders sought to soberly sell the achievements of their latest military operation to a domestic audience long skeptical of cease-fire deals like the one announced the night before.”
Hamas held boisterous rallies across the Gaza Strip the day after the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire with Israel went into effect, in spite of having lost 161 fighters and civilians, and being left with pulverized weapon stores and destroyed smuggling tunnels. According to CBS-News, “Gaza’s Hamas rulers claimed that Israel’s decision not to send in ground troops, as it had four years ago, was a sign of a new deterrent power.” Hamas’ Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, boasted that the “Resistance fighters changed the rules of the game with the occupation (Israel) and upset its calculations. The option of invading Gaza after this victory is gone and will never return.” Haniyeh pointed out that “Resistance can unite our people and bring us independence.” And he added, “The blood of Jabari [the terror master and so-called Hamas Chief-of-Staff killed by Israel] united the people of the nation on the choice of jihad and resistance.”
Unlike their political leaders, most of the Israeli public is cognizant of the nature of ceasefire agreements with Arab terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. They know that agreements mean very little beyond a respite in the fighting, and that as soon as Hamas manages to restore its depleted missile arsenal, the firing of rockets against Israel will resume.
For Hamas now, as for Yasser Arafat before, the ceasefire agreement with Israel is at best a hudna (Arabic for a temporary truce) and a reduction of hostilities against an enemy. It is a move meant to buy time until it is tactically advantageous to resume attacks. The model for Hamas and other Islamist terror groups is the Prophet Mohammed’s “peace treaty” with the Quraysh tribe known as the Treaty of Hudaybiah signed in 628 CE. The peace was supposed to last for ten years, but lasted for less than two. As soon as Mohammed became stronger, he violated the treaty and attacked the Quraysh, and captured their (and his native) city of Mecca.
There is a fundamental difference in approach towards negotiations between Jews and Arabs. The Jews (and these days the Israelis) were an oppressed minority for two millennia, and did not have the option to employ force. Hence, they needed to negotiate, often for their very physical survival, and always from a position of weakness. Over time, Jews developed not only negotiating skills but a philosophy of negotiation. They would negotiate against impossible odds, and learned to accept a negotiated status with the hope of improving their lowly and unprivileged status in later negotiations and through their good works. Peaceful settlement rather than force was the objective. That is why Jews by and large, refrained from physical resistance during the Holocaust. The European Jews, who used to negotiate rather than fight for their rights, believed that they could negotiate their survival with Hitler’s Nazi regime.
This residual psychological impact of Jewish victimhood is what brings Israel to negotiate under adverse conditions. Instead of negotiating with Egypt as a fellow state, Israel negotiated with Hamas – a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction – albeit indirectly. Hamas and Israel were thereby accorded equal status while Egypt emerged as the judge and arbiter. All of which was done with the encouragement and support of the U.S. and the international community.
Historian Paul Johnson points out in his book A History of the Jews (1987) that the Arabs in contrast to Jews are “A conquering race whose sacred writings both inspired and reflect a maximalist position towards other peoples, and despised dhimmis (Jews and Christian in Muslim lands who are considered protected people and accorded second-class citizenship). The very concept of negotiations towards a final settlement is to them a betrayal of principle. A truce, an armistice might be necessary and is acceptable because it preserves the option of force for later use. A treaty, on the other hand, appears to them as a kind of surrender.”
Which is why the Arab world ostracized Sadat’s Egypt after the signing of the Camp David Peace Accords with Israel in 1979, and why the Arab states refused to resettle the Palestinian refugees. Doing so would mean to them, the final disposal of a moral asset. It is clear that in the Arab mind, be it Palestinian-Arab, Saudi or Syrian, there cannot be a genuine peace with a non-Muslim independent and sovereign entity who reside in what they consider to be the land of Islam.
For the leaders of the Jewish state hope for a permanent peace with the Arabs in general and the Palestinian-Arabs in particular is paramount. That is why Israeli governments continue to make territorial concessions, and express willingness to compensate Palestinian-Arab refugees despite the fact that a greater number of Jewish refugees who fled the Arab world were never offered compensation. For similar reasons Jews hung on to the hope that they could negotiate their survival with Hitler, albeit under oppressive conditions, and Israel’s leaders in recent years have clung to the notion that treaties with the Arabs and with the Palestinians can bring peace. Hitler sought to kill all Jews, and eschewed any negotiations that would spare them. Similarly Hamas shuns any recognition of the Jewish state or agreement that is permanent and binding, and their charter calls for the destruction of the Jews in their midst.
Under the terms of the ceasefire agreement, Israel will end all hostilities in Gaza, including assassinations of Hamas leaders. Palestinian terrorists (militants is the term erroneously used by the western mainstream media) will end all rocket and ground attacks against Israel. It also stipulates that the crossings into Gaza will be opened for goods and people, which, if fully implemented, would be a significant change for the territory that has been under an Israeli economic blockade since 2007. Egypt will act as guarantor of the agreement.
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